06 June 2020 :
Federal judge upholds use of sedative in Arkansas executions. Judge Kristine Baker (U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas) on Monday upheld Arkansas’ execution process, ruling that the state can continue to use a sedative in lethal injections that other states have backed away from and rejecting claims that its use amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Judge Baker ruled the use of midazolam in lethal injections is constitutional and dismissed claims that less painful methods of execution are available. Attorneys for the inmates have said those alternatives include a firing squad and a barbiturate commonly used in physician assisted suicide. “The Court cannot conclude that plaintiffs have proven that the Arkansas Midazolam Protocol entails a substantial risk of severe pain as a result of the use of a 500-mg dose of midazolam as the 1st drug in the 3-drug protocol," Baker wrote in the 106-page ruling. The ruling comes more than 3 years after Arkansas raced to execute 8 inmates over 11 days, before its batch of midazolam expired. The state ultimately put 4 men to death after courts halted the other 4 executions. Arkansas doesn’t have any executions scheduled, and its supply of the three drugs used in the lethal injection process has expired. Lawmakers last year expanded the secrecy surrounding the source of the state’s supply — a move the governor and prison officials say was needed to help Arkansas get more lethal injection drugs. That law took effect last July. An attorney for the inmates declined to comment on Baker's ruling. The inmates’ case focused on midazolam, which critics have said doesn’t render inmates fully unconscious before other lethal injection drugs are administered. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld midazolam’s use in executions in 2015, but its use continues to prompt legal challenges nationwide. Seven states have used the sedative as the 1st administered in a 3-drug execution process, and 2 have used it in a 2-drug process, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.